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8 Ways to Help You Stay Productive Even When You Think You Can’t

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how to stay productive
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To succeed big, you must work your butt off. I just read a book about the routines of billionaires and some of history]s most successful figures, and every single one of them were super productive…and you should be too. If you want better things in your life, then you must stay productive regardless of how lazy you feel or how hard a task seems to you.  

Here are 8 ways to help you stay productive even when you think you can’t:

1. Calm the HALT down

HALT is an acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. These four moments are when you`re emotionally at your lowest, and all you can think of is bad food and a bed. Ever notice that you eat more on the days you feel tired or lonely? A great productivity tip is to take notice of when you’re at the HALT, and take some time to cool down before getting back to work. Take some time off, call a friend, take a nap, see a movie or eat something refreshing. The key is to realize that what you’re feeling is normal and to be okay with it. Once you feel better, you can get back to work.

2. Take tasks to their simplest form

“Open Gmail + type client’s email address.” This is a task I scheduled on my calendar yesterday. I was negotiating new rates with a client and because asking for a raise will always be intimidating, no matter how often you do it, I chose only to schedule the first step (Open my Gmail, then type in the client`s email), and let the ball roll from there.

I’ve been using this anti-procrastination trick for a decade, and it has never failed me. And in case you`re wondering, I wrote the email and scheduled a Zoom meeting. He said no, and we broke off. But I’m overbooked and happy.

Whenever I’m intimidated by a task, I look for the easiest thing I can do about it, and I do it. Then I look for the new “easiest” thing to do, and again I do it. Then again and again until I`m invested in the task that I no longer want to quit until I finish it.

“Being rich is having money; being wealthy is having time.” – Margaret Bonnano

3. Put everything on a calendar

I couldn`t believe how much working with a calendar was awesome until I tried it. The best thing about using a calendar is that it puts time constraints on everything you do. Each task has its start and end time which makes you feel like a player before a scheduled game; you can`t reschedule the game or delay it, so you`d better pull your things together and get back to work.

4. Take no emails when you feel bad

Avoid taking emails early in the morning or when you feel bad. It`s part of the anti-HALT process discussed shortly. Emails usually come with an unexpected change in plans and sometimes worse —take an angry customer for example. So, it makes sense that you schedule emails two or three hours after you wake up to stay in a perfect mood for productivity. It`s what many productivity experts do, including Tim Ferris.

5. Eat your frog first

Eat the frog is a term made by Brian Tracy, the Steph Curry of productivity. The frog is the most significant, most difficult and the most important task on your calendar and to Tracy, that should be the first thing you do every morning. Guess what? Eating the frog does work, and if you make a habit of it, you`ll be extraordinarily productive because of the amount of motivation it will give you. It`s like passing the first exam of the semester, which happens to be the toughest. All the following will be pieces of cake to you.

6. Try the power pose

Anytime you feel unproductive, stand up, breathe deeply and take the power pose or do some stretches. Changing your physiology can improve your mood, that`s what science discovered many years ago. If your time allows, you can hit the gym or go for a run. The pump you feel, and the accomplishment will regulate your mood and motivate you to take more action.

“To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goeth

7. Work from the most boring place you can find

A tiny mean room with just a bed, a bible and a deck of cards – that`s where Maya Angelou, the great poet, did her daily writing. “I can’t work in a pretty surrounding. It throws me,” she said in an interview. Maybe this can work for you too. My first ever writing coach gave this tip in my quest to make writing a daily habit. He told me the reason why most writers, including Angelou, love to write in dull environments is that it rushes them to get things done. It makes sense because if you can`t stand the place, then you`d do anything to get out.

8. Every now and then, Work only when you feel like working

When it comes to productivity, Georges Simenon is the man. He lived 86 years and wrote over 425 novels while only working two weeks every other month. As Mason Currey wrote about him in his book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, “The Belgian-French novelist worked in intense bursts of literary activity, each lasting two or three weeks, separated by weeks or months of no writing at all. Even during his productive weeks, Simenon didn’t write for very long each day” writes Currey.

Realizing that all you need is three hours of hard work before calling it a day may motivate you.  It`s bizarre, uncommon, and may not work for you, but maybe it does. So, why not give it a try? Pick a day this week, or the next, and set to work for only three, undistracted, hours then try to squeeze out every ounce of creativity and work in those hours. Once the clock ticks, take the rest of the day off.

How do you stay productive? Comment below!

Tyler Read is a NASM certified personal trainer with over 10 years of experience and an M.S. in Kinesiology. In addition to training a wide variety of clients, Tyler is also the founder and senior editor of PTpioneer, a website designed to help people become industry leading personal trainers.

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